Lambeth Council has approved Zaha Hadid Architects’ (ZHA) controversial plans for a pair of skyscrapers in Vauxhall – described as a ‘breakthrough project’ for the practice in the UK
Councillors voted in favour of the two blocks of 53 and 42 storeys and connecting podium site on Tuesday evening (18 December).
The scheme, proposed for the Vauxhall gyratory site, will be the practice’s first major mixed-use residential and commercial development in the UK.
It was dubbed a ‘two-fingered salute’ by opponents, who argued the buildings were out of scale with the area.
But the planning committee granted approval for the skyscrapers next to Vauxhall bus station – the same plot where Squire & Partners won permission on appeal for twin towers of 41 and 31 storeys in 2014.
The shorter tower will include 257 homes while the taller will have a 618-room hotel. The 11-storey podium element of the scheme will also include 20,000m² of office space, plus shops at ground level.
The scheme, for developer VCI Property Holding, includes 23 London Living Rent flats on-site and a contribution of £30 million towards affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.
The scheme has faced criticism for its scale including from local groups and from the neighbouring Borough of Wandsworth, which criticised its ’excessive height’.
In January this year, ZHA director Jim Heverin defended the size of the scheme and dismissed claims it would create excessive shadowing.
‘In terms of overshadowing, our proposal does not create any more than what is already permitted from existing schemes in the area,’ he said.
The ZHA scheme relies on land currently occupied by Arup Associates’ landmark bus station at Vauxhall. A year ago, planners approved a smaller replacement bus station for the site, which campaigners say will reduce safety and convenience for passengers.
Recommending the scheme for approval, Lambeth planners praised the ’slender rectangular towers’ which they said were more in keeping with the style of other nearby towers than the ‘round, stocky, sloped towers’ of the Squire & Partners scheme.
ZHA’s Vauxhall Cross proposals - plan showing podium
Heverin said: ‘There is still an ongoing discussion between our client and Lambeth about viability and the amount of affordable housing.’
Consultation on the scheme ended last month, but no committee date has yet been scheduled.
The application comes more than two years after ZHA principal Patrik Schumacher bemoaned the lack of large-scale, mixed-use schemes his practice had won in the UK.
Speaking in 2015, he said: ‘We look around us in London and we see all these cranes and wonder why we’re not a part of it. We did start to put out the message a few years ago but there is a preconception that we’re not interested, or there’s a doubt about the product we deliver.
Heverin described the fact that the practice has now submitted a planning application for the scheme as ‘significant’ for ZHA. ‘This is definitely a key breakthrough for us,’ he said. ‘It is a project where architecturally you have to approach it with more restraint than on other types of buildings. You are balancing the economics with design.
‘We had been keen to show that we can do this type of project and how the office is moving in this direction.’
The application has so far received 20 comments on the council’s website, with 10 objections and seven submissions in support (see bottom).
In 2016, Schumacher was heavily criticised after calling for social housing tenants to be swept out of central London.
Zha vauxhall cross view 07 171127 visual by slashcube copy
Comments on the planning application
‘The proposed development is grossly huge and will overshadow the surrounding area. We already have many tall buildings and do not need any more.’
‘These new high-rise blocks are not benefiting the majority of London’s population, they are largely investment opportunities for those based overseas and only serve to exacerbate the capital’s housing crisis.’
‘I absolutely love the Zaha Hadid Architects’ design; architecturally, this could be one of the best development in the Vauxhall area once completed.’
‘Architecturally, it could potentially be the best one in the regeneration zone and will hopefully set a precedent for other buildings being planned.’